ETHS teachers call for increased hiring and retention of Black, Latinx teachers


Illustration by Olivia Abeyta

Black and Latinx teachers are asking the district to prioritize their hiring and retainment.

Olivia Alexander, Assistant City Editor

In the fall, the Evanston Township High School math department wrote a letter to the District 202 Board of Education to advocate for hiring more Black teachers in its five-year goals. 

According to ETHS’s Illinois Report Card, the school’s teaching staff is about 69% white, 16% Black and 7% Latinx. Meanwhile, 27.3% of students are Black and 18.4% are Latinx. 

ETHS math teachers Jamilah Dorsey and Dawn Eddy said all students benefit from having more Black and Latinx teachers at school.

“The support that we get from teachers that look like us strengthens us in the classroom,” Dorsey said. “The more secure we feel with our content, with ourselves, (and) how we present it benefits all students.”

Dorsey added that when students of color have a teacher that looks like them, they perform better. 

Representation matters, Eddy said, because students who see themselves in their teachers will believe they are capable of learning in those subjects.

“We add more to our department, we add more to our classrooms, we add more to the school,” Eddy said. “We want to make sure that other Black teachers have the ability to be able to come and add to what’s already going on in the school.”

She said when there are fewer Black teachers, it’s harder for Black students to be heard. 

Abdel Shakur, English teacher and chair of the Black Caucus at ETHS, has taught at the school since 2013. He said the first two years working at the school were the hardest.

“It’s a very hard school to keep up with. You got pressure from administrators, you got pressure from parents, you got pressure from students, and some of that pressure has to do with the way that people see your racial identity,” Shakur said.

Shakur said the mentorship of former ETHS teacher Rodney Lowe helped him during this time. Lowe taught at ETHS for 31 years.

Shakur said Lowe helped him feel connected to the legacy of excellent Black teaching at ETHS, which he said is underrecognized and underappreciated. 

“That (mentorship) really helped me to see not just how I could survive here, but a path towards thriving in this environment,” Shakur said. “It also showed me some of the difficulty and the frustration that Black teachers face when they feel isolated and they feel unappreciated.” 

Shakur also said the District 202 board should prioritize Black teacher retention. In his first day of training at ETHS, Shakur said all the new teachers were told the school could have picked any teachers in the country, but chose them because ETHS wanted them. 

He said these words were powerful, but they didn’t improve retention. Shakur said while he started with a group of six or seven other male teachers of color.

”Most of them are gone — it’s really painful,” Shakur said. 

Many Black teachers at the school are nearing the ends of their careers, Eddy said, and there’s a sense of urgency because there hasn’t been enough recruitment and retention of the Black teachers.

Spanish teacher Fernando Campos has been at ETHS for 18 years. During his time, he said he has noticed the district doesn’t seem to always hire teachers with intention. 

“We have a lot of non-Black and Latinx allies that support us in the building. We can have everyone supporting us,” Campos said. “However, if our administration and our board and the vision of our school doesn’t align their hiring practices, it doesn’t matter.”

Growing up, Campos attended an all-white grammar school, where his family was judged for not seeing education as a priority. Any time his parents went to the school for conferences or open houses, he said there was no one there to receive them and identify with who they are. 

As a teacher, Campos said Latinx representation also means the affinity space that can be created with Black and brown students. 

“From the inspiration and influence of my Black and brown colleagues, we are changing our numbers of Black and brown success at Evanston Township High School,” Campos said. “However, we wonder how much greater that impact and that success would be if there weren’t as many teachers as you can count on your hands (representing) the Black and brown students that make up over 50% of the school population.” 

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